American Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said she was pepper-sprayed in a racist attack while waiting for an Uber in Los Angeles, where she is currently competing in Dancing with the Stars.
Lee, who is Hmong Asian American, was waiting with her group of friends—also of Asian descent—when a car sped by and the passengers inside allegedly hurled racial slurs like "ching chong" at the group.
Lee also said the people in the car told them to "go back to where they came from" according to an interview in Pop Sugar.
But before the car took off, Lee said one of the passengers sprayed her arm with pepper spray.
The 18-year-old said of the incident which took place in October:
"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off."
"I didn't do anything to them, and having the reputation, it's so hard because I didn't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen."
What she did do following the racist attack was call her longtime coach, Jess Graba.
Lee said she will be taking a break once her stint on the dance competition reality show is over.
"When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone."
"It's OK to feel down sometimes, but what I've realized is that it's important to express your feelings and ask for help."
"In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there's so much power in owning your feelings. It's not weakness, it's actually taking control."
Racially-motivated attacks towards Asians have spiked during the pandemic with many of the perpetrators erroneously blaming Asian people for COVID-19.
The nature of the hate crimes includes threats, verbal assault, property damage and physical violence.
A report by Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition tracking racism and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, showed there were at least 4,533 AAPI hate crime incidents in the first six months of this year.